Nonstop: Bomai, Kheegam,

Kashmir life Desk

Hours after home minister, P Chidambaram reassured the state government and the people that appropriate action will follow once reports by civil administration and Army about February 22 Bomai killing were available, paramilitary CRPF killed a 35-year-old carpenter Ghulam Mohi-ud-din Malik at Kheegam village near Pakherpora Wednesday evening.

Eyewitnesses said that the killing due to gunshots fired by paratroopers of the 181 CRPF battalion were unprovoked. Four paramilitary troopers, including an assistant commandant, were suspended on Thursday pending investigations.  The killing sparked protests in Pulwama and the situation in Kheegam remained tense after the killing. While the Bomai incident is still on boil, the real issue facing the state government is to wrest the trend of killings of civilians by armed forces. For the time being, the state government is failing to prosecute soldiers because of the unparalleled power given to them through Armed Forces Special Powers Act.

Even the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah realises the need to revoke the law. He says that the source for human rights violations by armed forces is the misuse of these laws. It was this issue that came under discussion during the Home Minister’s JK visit.

Chidambaram held a high level security review meeting with the state government, top commanders of the armed forces, paramilitary and police at Jammu. Though a discussion on the demand of revoking the armed forces special powers act – both National Conference and People’s Democratic Party had intensified this demand after Bomai killing – was deferred till parliament elections, the home minister emphasised the need to follow the Standard Operational Procedure (SOP) during counter-insurgency operations.

Meanwhile, the Defence Minister A K Antony as well as the Army Chief Gen Deepak Kapoor promised to punish the soldiers guilty of Bomai killings. The army launched an internal probe into Bomai incident.  Army chief General Deepak Kapoor promised action against troops if found guilty of the killings.  The question, however, remains weather Kapoor’s strong message will help in preventing any further loss of innocent lives. The Pakherpora incident reasserted that unless civil courts are allowed to prosecute the troopers, little is going to change on ground.

The cases related to fake encounters exposed in 2007 too fell flat as police could only arrest its own erring officers while the Army men chargesheeted went scot-free. One of the cases in that series was the custodial killing of Imam Showkat Ahmad Kataria in October 2006, who was picked up by a joint party of Special Operations Group of Ganderbal police and 13 Rashtriya Rifles. He was later killed at Bazipore and declared as a Pakistani Jaish militant.

Police chargesheeted 11 persons including five police officers, five army men and a civilian for the murder. But the Army refused to hand over its men for prosecution in the trial court and the proceedings had to be stayed after the army filed a petition in Supreme Court questioning the civil administrations authority to probe its men. The army got a favourable judgement only because they are protected by the AFSPA.

In the Bomai incident too, the inquiry report by state administration indicted the army for “killing two civilians without any provocation” and said that the actions “breached all operational procedures”. The report, prepared by Deputy Commissioner, Baramulla Baseer Ahmad Khan also turned down the claims of army while noting that there was “no crossfire as claimed by the Army.”

The army has now indicted an officer and two soldiers in the incident, but the larger  question remains if and what kind of punishment they receive. Human rights activists say the accused should be tried in a civil court, which is too distant a possibility, unless the act is revoked.

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